A few weeks ago, I experienced a moment of utter panic. There I was on Sunday morning, turning the pages of the New York Times Book Review at leisure, when all of the sudden these words popped out at me from the page: “The point may soon come when there are more people who want to write books than there are people who want to read them.”

My first thought: Well…what does that mean? Are there too many writers? Wait a second. Does this mean I have to stop writing?!

NO!!! No, says I! It cannot be!

My second thought: Wow, this is so true. I mean, it’s obvious beyond belief. Does anyone not want to be a writer? If there’s a surplus of anything right now, it’s writers. And why do I want to pursue a writing career? Am I crazy? Yes, I am crazy. Completely, totally, bars-on-windows crazy.

After a few desperate croaks of “Save me,” which merited odd looks from my mom, I decided to see what else the author of this article had to say. After all, the person who wrote this was, well, a writer. They wouldn’t proclaim the dreams of so many aspiring writers obsolete or worthless without good reason.

They went on to state: “At least, that is what the evidence suggests. Booksellers, hobbled by the economic crisis, are struggling to lure readers. Almost all of the New York publishing houses are laying off editors and pinching pennies. Small bookstores are closing. Big chains are laying people off or exploring bankruptcy.”

Well, this made me reconsider my previous thoughts. I don’t find it at all reassuring that booksellers and publishers are struggling. I’d much rather hear that book sales are at an all-time high, that the whole population needs glasses from reading too much, and that libraries have hired bouncers to control clamoring hordes at their doors. But the woes of booksellers, publishing houses, and the printed word in general do not necessarily have to be the woes of writers. It just depends on what writers are looking for. Which brings me to the question: what do writers want?

Like any other aspiring writer, I’d absolutely love to publish something. Most people who write really want people to appreciate whatever it is they’ve written. We have an innate need and want to share what we create. Yet sharing does not entail publishing. Publishing is a seal of approval. It is the official sign that you are a Writer, with all sorts of words and ideas at your disposal. In itself, though, sharing does not require a publisher, bookseller, or anything in between. ImpishIdea is partially built around this concept – the idea that there are readers available at any moment to not only read your writing but to provide thoughts and suggestions for improvement.

I am not suggesting that this sort of interaction between writers and readers should replace the reading of books. Any amateur writer who has read their fair share of books will cheerfully concede that the quality of a published book is, on average, a thousand times better than the writing you find on the internet (I am referring to work posted on the internet that is not accepted or approved by an editor or publisher). Editors, publishers and, to a more minor extent, booksellers perform a service by filtering through the “chaff” of writing to find the “wheat.” A reader with even the slightest powers of discernment and the desire to read something of good quality – that is, someone who doesn’t walk out of a bookstore having purchased a Stephanie Meyer novel – will benefit greatly from the hard work and careful selection of an editor, publisher, and bookseller.

However, for those of us who are amateur writers and haven’t reached the point of publishing (if we ever will), there’s no need to despair or give up writing or wonder if we’ll ever be able to share our work. There are so many ways for us to share our writing, to discuss writing itself, and to improve how we write. We might yearn for greater recognition of our efforts, and we might wish that we could parlay our love of writing into some sort of reasonable career, but we are grateful for and, to a degree, satisfied with the acknowledgment and feedback from our small audience of fellow writers and readers.

The key point that the article I mentioned above misses is that most people don’t write for the sole purpose of publishing. When I think about why I write, publishing is far, far down on my list. It follows a lengthy recitation of other, and better, reasons – reasons that I suspect I have in common with other writers. Who doesn’t know the sublime happiness that can be found in writing, and the deep sense of calm and mental well-being it brings; or, conversely, the excitement and electricity of reaching an epiphany in words? Those who write know the need to express thoughts and opinions, to tell a story, to work through and understand personal experiences, to communicate more clearly and profoundly, all through writing. When I write, I am driven by my huge admiration for the authors whose books I love to read over and over again. I know that the same is true for many, many other writers, amateur or otherwise. We write not because we want to publish. We don’t even write just because we want to. No, we write for an even simpler reason. We write because writing is what we love.

The article mentioned:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/books/28selfpub.html?scp=1&sq=writers&st=cse

Comment

  1. OverlordDan on 10 February 2009, 07:35 said:

    “I’d much rather hear that book sales are at an all-time high, that the whole population needs glasses from reading too much, and that libraries have hired bouncers to control clamoring hordes at their doors.”

    This made me smile :)

    I love this site. It has a polite crowd; well writen, informative articles; a disposition towards humor; and a staff(?) of dedicated writers contributing. I only wish that I had found out about this place sooner.

    Keep up the writing. I’ll be reading ‘em.

  2. SlyShy on 10 February 2009, 12:44 said:

    Ty,

    I think one day authors will publish their books on respectable websites, and this will become equivalent to being published by a Publishing House. At least, I’m taking the success of the blogger as my indicator here. Bloggers were once lowly citizen journalists, but are now mainstream and valued, often thought of as perfectly reasonable as a news source. Probably, other kinds of writers can go the way of the blogger.

  3. bobtheenchantedone on 10 February 2009, 12:56 said:

    Wonderful article, good thoughts. Thanks for writing it!

  4. Lookingforme on 10 February 2009, 13:50 said:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this article! I know how you feel—it always makes me so frustrated when people hear that I’m a writer (or that I like to write) and the first thing they ask me is, “So, are you published?” First of all:
    1) I am not even 17 yet. I know there are authors younger than that, but we all know how the majority of their novels turn out don’t we? (Yes, that was a Paolini bash.)
    2)Being published does NOT make you a writer, and a writer does not necessarily have to be published. There are plenty of books out there that I personally think should never have been distributed to the public (Twilight? Honestly, not everyone wants to read about your fantasies about being a subservient love-slave to a flour-doused creep…)and there are books that I absolutely love that took years to get published.
    I like to go with a very simple definition of a writer: “A writer is someone who wrote today.” (And that would NOT be me, what with musical rehearsal and all, but hey, you get the general sentiment!)

  5. SubStandardDeviation on 11 February 2009, 03:30 said:

    Who doesn’t know the sublime happiness that can be found in writing, and the deep sense of calm and mental well-being it brings; or, conversely, the excitement and electricity of reaching an epiphany in words?
    People who don’t write, of course. ;)

    I love the way this article is organized, and your voice and your passion for writing come through clean and clear. Keep it up!

    I think one day authors will publish their books on respectable websites, and this will become equivalent to being published by a Publishing House.
    This would be awesome, Sly, except how would they make money (i.e. “do it for a living”)? Ad revenue doesn’t even come close to the royalties and advances some prolific authors receive, especially if one only need access one webpage to read/download the entire book. I suppose they could go the e-book route…but I hate e-books xp

  6. SlyShy on 11 February 2009, 04:03 said:

    Well, I’m also envisioning a future where money has no basis in reality… so. :P

  7. Morvius on 13 February 2009, 23:37 said:

    @Slyshy

    Ah…if only…if only…

  8. Rudyard on 16 February 2009, 22:46 said:

    This is what I see in the future

    Now it’s absurd to thing that people will make a living by simply blogging, or at least a decent one. Let’s say that you have a site where post your content, content which you have slaved over and now expect to reap the rewards of. Now let’s say you charge a dollar to go on the site. Well of course nobody is going to come when they have thousand of other sites to go to for absolutely free, sites that may have inferior content but are done by people only part time and with no real interest in revenue. Well okay let’s say you just put advertisements on your site and you get paid for the traffic. Well that might be fine, until you forget to post for a week and your traffic dies. Well you could ask for donations form your readers that should keep you afloat right…

    I think you can see where I’m going

    But what can you get from all of this? Simple put… fame. Now you might say fat lot that’ll do me, right? Ah but you forget, fame can be directly transformed into wealth and back again. So if said blogger has a book, guess what, now he also has an audience. Several authors have already done this; Tucker Max comes first to mind. But other more… respectable … authors have also used the internet to cultivate their readers; Victor David Hanson, the leader Classical histories, for example.

    Thus although i don’t think that people will be able to make a living off of their blogs alone, but I don think it will be one of the key aspects to an authors survival for the future.

  9. Rand on 17 February 2009, 18:58 said:

    I doubt there will ever be a moment where more people aspire to write than read. Myself being the case in point. I would love to write something beautiful and have words spewing from my fingertips and from my eyes but in the meantime, I sit and wait for inspiration or divine intervention at the very least. I still read. It’s what you do.

    If there were more writers than readers, the writing would be absolutely horrible.

  10. Amelie on 27 February 2009, 14:33 said:

    @Rand— judging from Eragon and Twilight, some of the writing already has gotten to be absolutely horrible.

    That being said, based on my sporadic adventures through Borders and other such purveyors of fine modern literature, I believe there is still hope, however small. But that hope rests in the chance that people like Ty will not give up their dreams of having a career in writing, or even becoming Published, vain as it may seem. Good luck Ty! I’m enjoying your writing here for now, and hopefully the economy will see better days so that you can someday be a published author.

  11. SlyShy on 27 February 2009, 17:38 said:

    Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Neal Stephenson… I guess there are some great contemporary writers, but they are deluged by the torrents of bad paperbacks. Oh well.

  12. Snow White Queen on 27 February 2009, 21:05 said:

    Oh, I’m reading a book by Neal Stephenson right now. It’s good.

    Anyway, Ty, your article is very passionate about writing. It’s obvious that you love what you do.

  13. Ty on 28 February 2009, 19:06 said:

    Thanks for the encouragement! I think I’m a long way off from being published, but then, I get to write for II, so I have no complaints whatsoever (: And I love how EVERYONE on this site seems so passionate about writing, and reading, and just exploring ideas!

    As for blogging…well, I’m a hardcopy/print addict — I’m the most happy with a newspaper, magazine, or book in my hands, as opposed to on a screen. I envision myself in 10 years standing on a sidewalk with a cardboard sign, ranting and raving about the decline of major publications. So I can’t in good conscience say that I think blogs should replace other forms of publishing, but I certainly think blogs should supplement publishing. Blogging, however, has key differences from publishing, and — in my opinion — can’t serve as a replacement (I’m not going to go into this here but I somewhat discussed it in my article on journalism). I think blogging is its own institution altogether, and is significant for its fresh contributions to the world of writing.